By Paddy Henry
Padraic Toomey, Róisín Nic Lochlainn and Emma Sweeney have been elected into the full-time roles of SU President, Vice President, Welfare and Equality Officer and Vice President Education Officer respectively.
The elections saw a turnout of 2,700, almost 14% of the college electorate, an increase of 1,000 votes on the previous year and proved that student politics in the University has been well and truly reinvigorated, with intense debates and controversy relighting a flame that had been long snuffed out in NUI Galway.
The Presidential election saw a tussle for the electoral centre ground. Clubs’ Captain Padraic Toomey slotted into the space left gaping by rivals Alex Coughlan and Denis Mortell, who were preaching to two entirely different galleries when it came to attracting their core voters. An historic visit to the Shannon College of Hotel Management proved a master stroke by the Tipperary man Toomey, who swept the boards in the college that NUI Galway forgot. The traditional stick of bringing a dog to campus also worked a treat for the engineering student as his canine canvassing wooed voters.
SIN’s exit polling predicted a landslide for the current Clubs’ Captain and with the result a seemingly foregone conclusion before a vote was tallied, Friday morning in the Bailey Allen Hall became more of a coronation than an election for team Toomey, who romped home on the first count, taking 1,595 votes, 59% of the valid poll.
Speaking after his election, the new President elect thanked his team for the trojan work they had put in over the course of a long week,
“It’s been a long but an amazing week and something I’ll never forget in my whole life. We’ve had long, sleepless nights where I’ve slept in a tent and went canvassing and I’d really like to thank my campaign team, they were amazing. They were just so funny and always checking up on me”, he said. “The whole week has felt like one long day that’s never ended, I loved every bit of it, and it was a real fun week. We had so much fun with the other campaigners and their teams and I’d really like to thank them. It was a really good week”, he continued.
For Toomey, his focus now returns to protesting against the contentious NUI Galway student accommodation rent hikes, which the President elect described as “ludicrous”. Toomey also pledged to stay true to his manifesto when he assumes office in the summer and committed to creating a transparent and environmentally friendly SU. “We can do so much. I’m going to constantly refer back to my manifesto and I think I’ll plan for the year. I want the Meet your SU events. I want people to know exactly where they’re going to be on and what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. Environmentally, with the keep-cups, I think we’ll restart that and do that again and look for an increased budget for the likes of microwaves water fountains and seating, because I want to make it feel like a student campus for students”, he said.
The race for the Vice-Presidential role of Welfare and Equality Officer proved to be one of the most robust the Union has seen in many years. The three-way batttle between Róisín Nic Lochlainn, Ellen O’Donoghue and Simeon Burke saw intense debates, especially between Nic Lochlainn, a second year arts student and Burke, a second year civil law student and Irish Times Debate 2020 Finalist.
However, in a race which saw two candidates diametrically opposed to one another go to the trenches, Nic Lochlainn managed to mobilise a support base, comprised of loyal supporters enamoured by her passion for activism and an anti-Burke contingent.
She picked up 1,192 votes on the first count, 307 clear of Ellen O’Donoghue with Burke eliminated on 18% of the vote. His transfers proved decisive and saw Nic Lochlainn elected on her arch–rivals transfers,
A jubilant Róisín spoke to SIN following her election. “I’m delighted!”, she said. “You know the turnout was great and it was a lot better than last year. I’m delighted. Thank you to everybody who voted for me.”
For Nic Lochlainn, her priorities now turn to her role as Welfare and Equality Officer Elect and pledged to lobby the University on costs of use of the Kingfisher and providing unconscious bias training to SU staff. “From day one, I’m going to be working as hard as I can. The first thing I’m going to do is lobby the University about the fees that we pay for Kingfisher – that’s one of my immediate plans. I also want to get right into getting all the staff and SU Clubs and Societies into, everyone trained in mental health and unconscious bias training. I want to look straight into getting more funding for the Student Health Unit, just everything that I have in my manifesto and giving free tampons because that is easy to do, the University has the money for it”, she said.
Amid the furore and high jinks of the Welfare and Equality race, the contest for Education Officer could be seen as a somewhat tame affair. Emma Sweeney won out against her competitors, SU Council Chair, Scott Green and Arts Convenor Kenny Cooke. Sweeney, who is heavily involved with CÉIM, campaigned on issues such as increasing social seating, better timetabling to accommodate part-time workers and infrastructural improvements on campus. Despite her lateness in putting he name forward and her competitors both being established members of the SU Executive, Sweeney sailed home on the second count with 42% of the vote.
Speaking to SIN after her election Emma spoke of her delight at taking the role. “I am so tired and so exhausted, but I am absolutely delighted. Now my focus turns to just keeping doing what I’m doing at the moment, which is working with CÉIM and hopefully getting more support for that and bringing that forward, which will be a big focus for the next year”.
Sweeney also thanked her team for their hard work they put in in getting her elected, “They all worked so hard this week and I cannot thank them enough, without them this could not have happened”, she commented.